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by Kai Froeb


One central term of Hegel, the German word "aufheben", is usualy translated as "sublation" into English.

It has three meanings, which Hegel all means at the same time:

a) in it's basic meaning, it stands for a picture: to raise something, from a lower place to a higher place. Usually, you would think of taking something from the floor/ground into your hand.

Out of this picture, came these meanings:

b) You can see in that picture the meaning "raising something to a higher level", taking it a step further etc. While Hegel plays much with this meaning (in the sense that the Aufhebung / Sublation needs to take the original thesis to a higher level, think for example of Newton Physics vs. Einstein Physics), it is not really that much explicit present in the common use of that phrase in German common language.

c) You take something from the ground to examine it or to store it away. So the phrase is also used in the sense of "storing", "saving", "preserving" (usualy for later use). This is a common use of the word in German. Hegel uses this interpretation in the sense that the original thesis and antithesis are still present in some sense in the wider sublation (again one can think of Newton vs. Einstein).

d) Another popular use of "Aufhebung"/"aufheben" in the German common language is nearly the opposite of c): I think the English language also uses the verb "to lift" (as present in the original picture presented in a)), in the sense of "to end", "to negate" say in the expression "to lift a ban" etc.

In German we also speak i.e. of the lift of a law, when a law of the state is expressed to be not more valid anymore.

Hegel thinks of this aspect of sublation/Aufhebung in what I tried to express in 2d of that Hegel posting. While c) lays the expression on the fact that the older thesis are not just denied, but that all what was reasonable in them is preserved in a better system (and that the better system is not better/subject to criticism in the grade it fails to implement all reasonable from the thesis), d) lays the emphasis more in the aspect in that the Sublation is also something new and also a kind of critique of the former thesis (otherwise, why would one need the sublation? The thesis would be enough). Especially, the idea here is that the implicit assumptions, borders of thesis (and probably antitheses) are "lifted"/"overcome" in a meaningful "sublation".

In order to express these three aspects all together, Hegelians prefer to speak from "Aufhebung" instead of expansion, inclusion, synthesis or similar, which all more focus on some aspects. BTW, Hegel himself never used the term "synthesis" for the concept of "sublation" discussed here.

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